20th Jan 2022

EU clinches deal on roaming prices

EU negotiators have clinched a preliminary deal on the controversial issue of lowering the price of using a mobile phone abroad across the 27-member bloc.

Representatives from the three branches of the EU - the member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission – reached a compromise after hours of tough negotiations on Tuesday (15 May).

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Under the final deal, the retail price cap in the first year would be set at €0.49 per minute for making mobile phone calls abroad, falling to €0.46 in the second year and to €0.43 in the third year, excluding VAT.

Receiving a call while abroad would cost €0.24 in the first year, fall to €0.22 in the second year and to €0.19 in the third year.

MEPs had originally called for a cap of €0.40 a minute for outgoing calls, and €0.15 for incoming calls, while member states had originally suggested €0.60 and €0.30 per minute respectively.

"It's a very consumer-friendly tariff," said Austrian centre-right MEP Paul Ruebig who is the co-author of the draft law.

He added that he knew that "not everybody will be happy with the solution that we have found," however.

Member states where telecoms operators make money on the country's many visitors using their mobile phones - such as France and the UK – held out for higher priced caps while industry group GSMA said caps should be set at €0.65 and €0.35 to let operators compete for consumers.

The deal

Mr Ruebig explained that the compromise deal has a so-called sunset clause meaning that the law will come to an end after three years it is in effect, forcing the legislation to be reviewed.

Once in effect, operators would have one month to offer customers the new pricing plan, while customers would have two months to choose whether they want to go with the new roaming charge plan or stick with their existing service contracts.

Mobile companies make about €10 billion a year from the some 150 million mobile phone customers in the EU using roaming to make calls outside their home nation, according to Brussels' figures.

If the compromise deal is approved by MEPs when they meet in Strasbourg next week for a plenary session and then by the 27 EU telecoms ministers when they gather in Brussels on 7 June, it could come into effect in mid-July – just in time for the summer holidays.

EU states aim for less ambitious roaming fee cuts

Some EU member states are pressing for higher mobile roaming prices when EU citizens use their phone abroad in the 27-member union than the ones proposed by a European Parliament report earlier this month.

EU ministers close to deal on roaming fee cuts

EU telecoms ministers are expected to clinch a deal on slashing the price of using mobile phones abroad at an informal meeting today. But the UK warns that rigid price caps could lead to all consumers - even those not phoning from abroad - being forced to pay extra to plug the gap in company income.

EU roaming charges plan suffers setback

The European Commission's much flaunted goal of having cheaper mobile roaming fees across the bloc before EU citizens go on summer holiday this year has taken a bashing as differences between member states have stopped an important European Parliament vote from going ahead.

Covid variants put Schengen under pressure

The EU Commission also raised concerns about the proportionality of Belgium's ban on non-essential travel, for people wishing to leave the country.

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